Beat the burn-out: how to mentally reboot and be productive again

How To Beat Burnout

This article is a follow-up to my blog post on maximizing your energy and productivity levels throughout the day.  Sometimes the best way to improve your energy level is not figuring out how to work harder, but to slow down for a mental refresher when you inevitably find yourself overworked.

Entrepreneurship is freakin’ exhausting.  Even while running a business as automated as Raw Athletics, if I’m not careful, I occasionally find myself engulfed in a never-ending to-do list.  If you’ve ever been in a situation like that — and I’m assuming most people here have — you know that you are usually left with two options– fire up the coffee pot and charge full-steam ahead into the god-awful hours of the night, or realize that the current situation is not sustainable and things must change in order to move forward.  Many of us choose Door #1, which leads us down an unsustainable path that demands torturous amounts of mental energy.  Up until a certain point, this hard work probably brings a strange sort of pleasure from the sense of accomplishment through the struggle, but the moment that grueling pace stop being fun and you begin to accomplish less and less, you’re all of a sudden left with a severely depleted body and mind– you are sufficiently burned out.

At this point, the smartest thing you can do is hit the reset button, because no “productivity hack” will help you at this point, yet clearly something needs to change.  After all, Albert Einstein defined ‘insanity’ as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”– so if you’re expecting to stay on the same unsustainable path yet expect to overcome your burn-out AND accomplish everything you need to do, that’s an insane plan, literally.

Tips For Avoiding Burnout

Here are some of my recommendations on how you can overcome that burn-out and get back to being your uber-productive self–

Accept the fact that you are burned out.  The only true way to recover from a full-blown burnout is to rest your body and mind.  Once you come to this realization, you won’t feel guilty about taking more personal time because you will understand that the quicker you get back to normal, the quicker your business can move forward.

Give yourself more down-time, but don’t disconnect completely.  Unless you’re taking a mental detox vacation, I wouldn’t recommend disconnecting completely.  Realistically, completely disconnecting from your business without proper planning would probably lead to more stress instead of less, which is counter-productive for our purposes of beating the burnout.  Take a look at your to-do list before you go to bed every night and plan on getting only a few things done the next day.  Don’t overreach on what you think you can accomplish– it’s better to get a few things done early than to get more things done but still not reach your goals for that day.  Set yourself up for success, not failure– it will do wonders for your mental recovery.

Go to sleep earlier and/or wake up later. Usually people wake up early or go to sleep late to have more working hours in the day– which makes sense when you’re functioning at full-strength —  but when you’re burned out, it doesn’t matter if you’re awake for longer because you’re unproductive during those hours anyway.  You’re much better off getting those few extra hours of sleep.  Working fewer hours will also give you a chance to see where your business processes could be improved in your absence– Do you need to hire more employees?  Do you need to automate a specific process?

Optimize your morning routine.  Take this reboot time to really test out new lifestyle and routine changes that you would like to carry with you back to your normal everyday routine to try and prevent another burnout.  One of the best things I personally have done for myself was to optimize my morning routine, which led to improved energy levels and focus throughout the entire day.

Temporarily stop drinking coffee.  Boom — yeah, I just said it.  It’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but while coffee does give you temporary energy, it is not sustainable energy, which it what we’re aiming for.  Coffee does have many health benefits, but it also raises cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which is very counter-productive to our goal of reducing stress and regaining your natural energy levels.  I love coffee, but I usually limit myself to only a few cups per week to give my adrenal glands a rest every once-in-a-while.   And when I’ve accepted the fact that I’m burned out, I’ll completely refrain from coffee until I have my energy levels back naturally.  The first few days are rough, but around day 4, you should start to regain some of your natural energy.

Hang out with friends, phone disconnected. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not advocating a complete electronics detox, but rather to opportunistically choose when to disconnect.  Leading up to your burnout, you probably weren’t spending much time with your friends and family because you were working so much.  Take this time now to relax with some friends and have a good time by being physically and mentally away from work.

Laugh more. Aside from refraining from coffee, laughing is a great way to reduce cortisol levels.  My favorite surefire way to laugh?  Kill a few hours on youtube watching funny videos, or going to a live stand-up comedy show.

Supplement with Vitamin D, Rhodiola and Astragalus.  Diet, sleep and exercise should be the foundation of any healthy lifestyle, but there’s definitely a place for supplements, especially when it comes to rejuvenating your body and mind.  Optimizing your Vitamin D levels is very important since chronic stress can disrupt your body’s Vitamin D3 uptake.  There’s also a class of herbs called adaptogens which help your body adapt to stress and normalize your hormone levels.  My two personal favorites are rhodiola rosea and astragalus– I take both every morning if I’m under more stress than usual.

Drink a ton of water. Being dehydrated will negatively affect your mood, energy levels and ability to think clearly.  By not staying hydrated, you’re automatically putting yourself at a disadvantage in your battle to defeat burnout.  Many people don’t consume enough water in general– what helps me is to leave a large glass on my desk, and every time I finish it, I go and fill it up again immediately.

New physical activity. If your body feels good, your mind will follow.  If you don’t usually exercise, start exercising– even something as simple as morning walks before breakfast is enough.  Already on an exercise program?  Try a new routine.  If you exercise specific body parts each workout, try switching to a full body or upper/lower routine.  Always lift heavy?  Try dropping the weight and do circuit training instead.  During this burnout period, it’s important to inject new healthy energy into your life, and an easy way to do that is to switch up your workout routine.

There you have it — some of tips and tricks that I personally use to beat the burnout.  Depending on how burned out you are will determine how long it will take to fully recover.  Avoid setting a hard date for when you need to be back to normal– just take your time.  What’s important during this recovery period is that you really throw a wrench in your old routine to give you a new perspective on the day while at the same time reducing stress levels, so I hope these tips can provide some of that new energy to your day and get you back to normal quickly!

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